Ireland’s first Emergecy air ambulance service, launched just two weeks ago on a pilot basis, is responding to an average of one emergency call a day.
The Emergency Aeromedical Service, which began operations on June 4th, has responded to a wide range of emergencies including serious strokes, heart attacks and road traffic collisions.
The air ambulance, an EC135 helicopter based at Custume Barracks in Athlone, is operated by the Air Corps while National Ambulance Service (NAS) advanced paramedics are responsible for patient care
Since commencing service, the air ambulance has responded to emergency calls across the west, its particular area of operation.
To date, the emergency response crew has airlifted a seriously injured cyclist following a collision in Co Clare as well as a critically injured rally navigator from a crash in Portlaoise last week.
The service has also airlifted several stroke and heart attack patients to hospitals for emergency treatment when the same journey by road would have taken too long for such time-critical conditions.
The medical director for the National Ambulance Service, Dr Cathal O’Donnell, said: “The service has been working very well and responding to an average of one emergency call a day.
“The whole idea behind this pilot programme is to gather information and establish whether Ireland needs a dedicated aeromedical service,” he said.
“The helicopter answered 10 emergency calls in its first 10 days so that’s an average of one a day. We expect this to grow as time goes on.
“The helicopter can only be requested by a paramedic at a scene if they believe the situation warrants an emergency transfer.
“Most of the calls have been medical emergencies but there have been some serious injury transfers too,” Dr O’Donnell said.
The pilot scheme will operate for 12 months with the air ambulance being available to respond to emergencies during daylight hours.
At present, the helicopter operates between 8am and 6pm daily but these times will change during the winter when the number of daylight hours reduces.